Just before 14:00 hours on Wednesday, May 4 2022, several construction workers became trapped under rubble when part of the old Edison Power Plant collapsed in South Boston. Police officers from District C-6, Boston Firefighters from across the city and Boston EMS all rushed to the scene on Summer Street, where crews began working on a “structural collapse” at the demolition site.
According to Boston Fire, two of the workers were extricated quickly with minor injuries, however a third worker had his legs pinned by a collapsed floor and wall with his head and torso in a void. Paramedics assigned to P1 were on scene within minutes, stabilizing the third victim and never leaving his side until he was freed hours later.
As hours passed, Boston EMS Incident Command relayed a request from the medics of P1 to activate the on-call surgical team and have them respond to the dilapidated coal plant, with the intention of performing a field amputation of the patient’s leg. According to a Boston EMS spokesperson, the surgical team was from Boston Medical Center and was dispatched to the site after a field amputation became a strong possibility.
Through the combined efforts of the surgical staff, EMS and firefighters, the victim was successfully extricated without an amputation being performed. The worker was transported to BMC in critical condition but is reported to be stable at this time. The two other workers were taken to Tufts Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital with what are considered to be serious but non life threatening injuries.
The facility sits on a 15-acre lot that’s being redeveloped into housing, businesses space and a hotel. The permits for the site have been put on hold as Boston Inspectional Services and Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration personnel investigate the incident, Mayor Wu confirmed during a press conference at the scene.
This is Boston’s second major partial building collapse this year. In March, part of the Government Center Garage collapsed, killing a worker on the scene. “I’m angry that we are here again on another worksite with another major incident,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at the scene.
George Regan, a spokesman for Suffolk construction said, “This was an unfortunate accident but it was the result of human error.”
Boston police said the department’s homicide unit and crime scene response unit will be investigating. Suffolk DA Kevin Hayden said his office was also investigating in partnership with the federal workplace investigators that are on scene.
In an interview with another outlet, Joe Cappuccio, who works with ‘Friends of South Boston Green Space’, told the reporter, “We just had this in downtown crossing… We’re supposed to be a union worker state, I mean, what is happening here?!” Developers are in the midst of demolishing the coal plant from the inside out.
The redevelopment of the old plant has moved slowly, with community and political opposition to various aspects dogging Hilco and Redgate Redevelopment Partners, who plan to turn it into a 1.8-million-square-foot development that would include 635 apartments and condos, 960,000 square feet of office and research uses, 80,000 square feet of retail space, 240 hotel rooms and up to 1,214 parking spaces.
Boston Fire Commissioner Jack Dempsey said that a large piece of cantilevered flooring fell, forming a void and trapping the worker’s lower legs. Over 250 emergency responders helped in the rescue, including EMTs and paramedics who helped the victim with pain management as he was awake and conscious the entire time he was pinned. The surgical team from BMC is also credited with assisting in the care of the trapped worker.
The collapse is believed to have occurred around 13:40 hours with the last worker being rescued shortly after 17:00 hours. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu also thanked emergency responders; “It is a near miracle that our third person was able to be transported to the hospital safely, and we are sending every prayer for a quick stabilization and recovery,” the mayor said. Dempsey said the building is old and weak, and “demolition jobs are dangerous.”